Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia University Researchers Discover Pathway For Treating Heart Failure

Significant Study Shows How Beta-Blockers Treat Heart Failure and Repair Diseased Tissue — Will be Key to Next Generation Drugs with Potential to Eliminate Disease
New York, NY – June 26, 2003 – Dr. Andrew Marks, chairman of the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, director of the Center for Molecular Cardiology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, and cardiologist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, and a team of researchers at Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital have made a significant discovery in the treatment of heart failure. Specifically, their research has revealed how beta-blockers, drugs used to treat heart failure, repair the heart. The findings were published in the May 20 issue of Circulation.

“Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and with our aging population, the disease is only going to become more prevalent,” explained Dr. John A. Vest, postdoctoral clinical fellow in medicine at Columbia and one of the researchers in Dr. Marks’ laboratory involved in the study. In a normal heart, channels called ryanodine receptors allow a measured flow of calcium that determines the strength of the heartbeat. In 2000, Dr. Marks and colleagues at Columbia reported that in heart failure cases, certain calcium channels are leaky and impair the pumping function of the heart. “What our recent study revealed is that beta-blockers, a class of drugs used to treat heart failure, actually help repair these leaky channels,” said Dr. Vest.

“This study is unprecedented,” said Dr. Marks. “We know that beta-blockers cure about 30 percent of all heart failure cases. But, by understanding at the molecular level how these drugs fix leaky calcium channels, we can begin to design a second generation of drugs that may eliminate the problem in a majority of cases.”

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Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons
Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians & Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree. Among the most selective medical schools in the country, the school is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York state and one of the largest in the country. Columbia’s Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics is one of the nation’s premier scientific groups focusing on cellular physiology, cardiovascular biology, and neurobiology research.